A valiant 77* from Rory Burns left England with a fighting chance of completing their highest ever successful run chase in Test cricket in Centurion.
As well as Burns played, England will still be ruing their lack of penetration and control with the ball in the opening session. Resuming on 72/4, South Africa piled on 125 runs in the opening session with the loss of just three wickets. Debutant Rassie van der Dussen reached a hard-fought maiden Test half-century while nightwatchman Anrich Nortje frustrated England for over an hour and ended with a career-best 40.
Both were dismissed by Jofra Archer who claimed his third five-wicket haul in Test cricket in just his seventh outing in the format. Archer greeted Quinton de Kock – the scorer of 95 in the first innings – with two bouncers in his first over at the crease, both of which were sent over the boundary rope for six.
South Africa’s tail wagged stubbornly. Vernon Philander, South Africa’s hero on day two with the ball, hit 46 and was ably supported by Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada. South Africa were eventually bowled out for 272, leaving England needing 376 runs to win. If successful, it would be England’s highest ever successful run chase, surpassing their effort at Headingley earlier this year.
Burns and Dom Sibley started England’s run chase in confident fashion, negotiating the new ball pairing of Philander and Rabada well. Burns had an lbw decision overturned early on but aside from a tough missed chance at slip, got to the close reasonably comfortably.
Sibley eventually fell for 29 – his highest score in Test cricket so far – spooning a simple chance to Maharaj off his own bowling. The 92-run opening partnership was England’s highest in over four years. England finished the day on 122-1 needing 255 more runs to secure a famous victory.
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